Paul Morley, in the Daily Telegraph, had this to say yesterday about Bowie:
“He flooded plain everyday reality with extraordinary, unexpected information, processing the details through a buoyant, mobile mind, and made intellectual discovery seem incredibly glamorous. He helped create in my own mind a need to discover ways of making sense of both the universe and the self by seeking out the different, the difficult and the daring.”
There is a book on my shelves now, a novel, that’s a few years old, by American author Philip Graham. It’s called How to Read an Unwritten Language. I was so moved by this book when I first read it, I emailed the author to secure a copy of his previous work of short stories, that was then out of print. The novel is about a man who, beginning in early childhood and throughout his life, collects things: small objects, buttons, tape recordings, all of which are emblematic of a story unique to each one. As a grown man he scours garage sales looking, not for antiques, but for tokens that carry lines of memory behind them.
In a way, the character is similar to Juliette Binoche’s character in Bee Season. Remembering her husband’s description of tikkun olam, the religious concept of “repairing the world,” symbolically or literally gathering shards (think glass), she collects shiny trinkets and assembles them in a warehouse with the intention that they will, one day, hold the light of God.
Both these characters behave this way as a result of deep-rooted trauma. Bowie is simply an artist: but I also think of him as a collector. He has been as much a creator as someone who has accessed, and passed on, art, sound, ideas. Sometimes he rehashed, sometimes he reworked, sometimes he merely referenced or discussed. This is properly interpreted as the work of — in Paul Morley’s words elsewhere in the article — a teacher. Someone who, intentionally or not, wants/succeeds at pulling us out of the mundane.
According to Wikipedia (God bless Wikipedia), Bowie hasn’t performed Rock ‘n Roll Suicide since the 1990 Sound + Vision tour, from which we get this clip. At the end of this number, conceptually at least, Ziggy Stardust exists the stage. If you read Japanese, this clip is even more appropriate for you.